US: Tennessee wedding venue refuses to hold commitment ceremony for two Iraq veterans

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A wedding venue in Tennessee has refused to allow two gay Iraq veterans to hold their commitment ceremony there, claiming it would violate state law.

Anthony Wilfert and Brian Blas, who met while serving in the army under ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’, were initially told that Mint Springs Farms in Nolensville, would be happy to hold their ceremony.

Wilfert told WSMV: “I made it clear from the get-go that it was a same-sex ceremony.

“[They] explicitly made it clear that it was not an issue, that they would host that type of ceremony.”

However, two days later the couple received a letter from the venue, which advertises itself as ‘all-inclusive’, telling them that they couldn’t hold their commitment ceremony there.

It read: “Unfortunately, until same sex marriage is legal in the state of Tennessee, we cannot participate in this ceremony at our venue.

“I wish we could help, I truly do, but our hands are tied in this situation.”

The owner explained to WSMV that he does not feel he can hold any same-sex commitment ceremonies until the state permits same-sex marriage.

He said: “We are deeply sorry that a staff member of ours was unaware of our policy and truly understand the disappointment of this couple.

“Our employee was simply trying to be helpful to this couple who visited our venue after hours. We only do weddings at our facility

“When we went into this endeavour, we knew that due to the nature of our business, this situation would arise.

“However, Tennessee law currently states that same-sex marriage is prohibited by the Tennessee State Constitution.

“Because we only host weddings, we cannot violate Tennessee law.”

Wilfert said: “It is a private venue. We purposefully chose a place that is not tied to a religious organization for that reason, so to mention something about state law is baffling.”

Blas added that the couple will now marry elsewhere, saying: “I think that’ll make for a better wedding at the end of the day.”

Tennessee’s constitution defines marriage as between a man and a woman, but there is no provision to ban gay commitment ceremonies.

A federal appeals panel recently reversed an earlier decision to force the state to recognise the marriages of three Tennessee gay couples, as part of a long-running court battle.